- Intro: What is carving?
- Step 1: Tip your skis
- Step 2: Create angles
- Step 3: Carve into the fall-line
- Step 4: Put it all together
- Troubleshooting: 6 common carving mistakes
What is carving?
A carved turn is where the ski is bent against its natural camber into an arc, and that arc shape guides the skis along a curved path. Modern skis are already shaped to make this easier. When carving, the tail of the ski follows the same path of the tip; meaning almost no resistance from the snow, and leaves a clean pencil line track in the surface of the piste. A carving ski will move faster and build more pressure, so you feel higher g-forces than in any other turn, which is why it’s the best technique for racing. It is also why it feels so good!
How does it work?
When you tip a parabolic shaped ski on its edge, the tip and tail stay on the ground, but the middle underfoot will rise up slightly. If you balance in the middle of that ski your weight will press it into the snow, bending the ski and putting it on an arced path. The more you tip the ski, the further the foot has to go to dig into the snow, so the more the ski bends. This is why great skiers lie almost all the way over to make tight radius carved turns.
What is the goal?
I mentioned most skiers think they can carve. That usually involves going very fast and tipping the body slightly from side to side without careful consideration of their pressure and motion. This is fun but it doesn’t really achieve much! You only deviate slightly from straight down.
Gravity gives you momentum down the hill. You are trying to take that momentum and make it take you across the hill (or from gate to gate in a race course).
How to carve in 4 steps
Very few turns are purely carved from start to finish, but most good turns involve a carved phase. The easiest and most useful time to carve is the final third of the turn; as the skis are steered out of the fall line and back across the hill. This is where most of the direction change and speed control is achieved. Start by carving the very end of your turns and, when you can control speed and balance well, bring it further up in the arc.
1. Tip them over and balance on the outside
To tip the skis on edge the lower legs need to tip to the inside. To balance on the outside foot, the centre of mass needs to move the other way. So to edge effectively we need to make angles in the body, as you do when preparing to step up the hill.
Take the carved feeling from the traverse and put it in higher up the arc, so you are carving for a larger portion of the turn. You’re working towards feeling that you are standing on that solid platform on the outside foot from the fall line all the way to completion. Start with the same position, but understand you will need to tweak it while moving, because the forces change as you progress through the turn. Learn to adjust the feet to stay in the middle of the outside foot and keep the ski running cleanly through the snow.
In the video below, Level 4 instructor Tomas Mical gives us a step by step approach to create a carving platform with the outside ski.
3. Carving into the fall line
Carving the first half of the turn will pick up a lot of speed. To work on this, head to a wide easy green run where you can straight line with no worries.
- Spaghetti Legs: Start on a straight run with the skis flat. Tip both skis onto the little toe edge, they should diverge. Now tip both onto the big toe edge, they should come back in and meet in the middle. The skis should run smoothly in both directions; don’t push them across the snow, keep the tails following the tips. To do this successfully and keep moving in a straight line means keeping the upper body and hips stable; the edging movement comes from the feet and legs, so the ankles and knees tip, not the hips and shoulders.
- Rollerblades/Edge Rolls/Train tracks: Back in a straight run. Keeping the same upper body discipline you got from spaghetti legs, tip the skis over the same way; one foot to the little toe edge and one ski to the big toe. You are trying to carve shallow serpentine turns leaving clean knife edge lines in the snow. If you keep the hips and shoulders steady, the skis should steer across the body and your balance will gradually shift to the outside foot.
- Wide stance: As well as needing stability at these speeds, a wide stance gives you the space to roll the skis on edge.
- Get low: The legs don’t move laterally when they’re straight, meaning the edging move will now come from the hips and shoulders - moving the mass towards the inside ski. You need a lot of bend in the ankles and knees to unlock your lateral range of motion.